Saturday, February 14, 2015

Broom Revolution - BJP's loss of face – a tempest in a teacup ??

It took more than 36 hours for a hard nut like Narendra Modi to get back his equanimity as for almost two days he had practically vanished from social networking. There is no denying that the Delhi 2015 verdict left a shocker for him more than to the BJP.
Namo's silence appeared more than eloquent. Modi has been an active netizen and had given unto himself the role of the sole spokesman for him and his entire government since May 2014. Thus it was not without good reason that BJP leaders and union ministers remained clueless for days on how Modi would react to the Delhi mandate details. “The BJP still does not want to face the fact that Modi’s spell has waned,” wrote columnist Kuldip Nayar, of course a renowned apologist for anti-Modi journalism. But even the other school of thought including a few admirers suggested that Modi must own up the responsibility of Delhi disaster and that itself will be the first step to take corrective measures.

As someone who always had high regards for Modi's ability to read people's pulse, I ought to make a frank and a bitter statement: Narendra Modi’s biggest failure was to break the 'Delhi caucus'. The Mandate 2014 was precisely meant for bringing a change. From Arun Jaitley to Ajit Doval....he should have taken care of these table-experts. This is where Namo has let down his admirers.

In this blog site itself I have a link of an interview I had given to Matters India where I spoke highly about Modi's "ability to read the pulse of his people".
But in retrospect if Modi detractors got a golden opportunity to lambaste him and ventilate their 13 year long frustration after AK-67 victory, it is the Prime Minister who ought to be blamed. Of course the part of the blame goes to two of his lieutenants Amit Shah and Jaitley whom he trusted more than they had the merits. 
The anti-corruption movement and strive for clean polity that Denizens had associated with Kejriwal, one-time lieutenant of Anna Hazare, had collapsed in February 2014 when he had resigned. It has no doubt, now eroded with this very aggressive mandate. The AAP vote share was a record 54.3 as against 32.2 of BJP while a modest all time low 9.7 per cent for Congress. The seats tally –unheard off in recent times -  AAP – 67, BJP- 3 and Congress scored a neat ‘zero’. Dalit messiah Mayawati’s BSP too could not open its account.
The Prime Minister’s alleged silence on highly unwarranted episodes like Ghar Wapsi (re-conversion) and attacks on churches had heightened fears of religious intolerance. This alienated Muslims and Christians and on the other hand Kejriwal could expand his middle-class base as Delhiites generally including Hindus thought Modi was getting his priorities changed from ‘people welfare’ in the country to over-emphasis on winning over world leaders like Barack Obama. The negative campaign simply boomeranged and what Modi fail to understand that is perplexing as it is he who benefited the rich dividends of 13-year-long 'negative campaign' against him. Delhi spoils you and absolute dependence on Delhi's "ho jaega" culture can get anyone wrong.
From Jaitley to Ajit Doval, his powerful National Security Adviser, are actually Delhi media's creation. So is Kiran Bedi and also Arvind Kejriwal. And this is more frightening than anything else. In the wake of Delhi drubbing while party circles in BJP headquarter is abuzz about Jaitley's utter failure as poll manager as he mishandled Delhi polls even in 2009; it will be difficult to find real sharp attacking articles against Jaitley in the national press. The reason could be Jaitley's off-the-record briefing club and so we have selective amnesia!! This has happened despite Kirti Azad's powerful words on the first day itself. In this blog itself I had called Doval, 'man of the year - 2015' in a posting on December 17, 2014. (See 
Doval matters in Modi Sarkar

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AK-67 ‘revolutions’ in northeast

The Aam Admi Party (AAP)  -- Common People's Party - victory in Delhi actually demonstrates the victory of the ‘civil society’ in taking up roles of governance. Historically, this is not new for northeast. Assam had witnessed the emergence of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the landslide victory in 1986. Youth organizations in other northeastern states like Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram are not only influential, they also command tremendous respect. Young Mizo Association is one such body.
 So while the Congress and other regional party politicians are busy these days lampooning at Narendra Modi, the established political class in Assam, Nagaland or Mizoram should be careful of a possible scenario if leaders and volunteers from such youth organizations float their own parties. So far the trend used to be joining the parties like Congress, NPF (or its earlier version NPC in Nagaland), the likes of Tarun Gogoi and even Prafulla Mahanta should be careful of ‘local Arvind Kejriwals’ in their own states. In Assam, the AAP has already announced of going alone in 2016 assembly polls. Local AAP leader in Assam Manorom Gogoi has said that that it will develop Assam­ specific model for building the organisation and for providing realistic solutions to the burning problems like floods, illegal immigration, unemployment and insurgency.  A mini-revolution has actually begun. 

Historically, civil society has been an active tool in northeast. So we could possibly have many Kejriwals in northeast. Delhi election was certainly a milestone event.

The havoc wrought by it has broken the myth that Narendra Modi in invincible. It should serve a wake-up call not only to the Modi-Amit Shah duo but to the entire political class including Arvind Kejriwal himself.
The ‘AK-67’ ( as the tag stuck him for unprecedented 67 seats win out of 70 in Delhi) has done the right thing to say that the mandate is “scary”.
One possible explanation of the mandate in country’s capital like the rest of India is actually on the social transformation that has come to stay following globalisation. It has a typical angle for north east India which has remained economically underdeveloped for a plethora of reasons ranging from New Delhi’s neglect to the absence of work culture of the locals.

Analysts including from north east and Christian leaders and intellectuals have their argument to link the Delhi mandate to the Modi regime’s “eloquent silence” on attack on churches and Prime Minister’s autocratic style of functioning. But they would miss the point that the ‘angry Delhiites’ verdict’ is actually linked to the neo-liberal economic and political forces those have set in.

The disparity between rich and poor is frightening and to top that there is a huge force of middle class who are in hurry to beat the neighbourhood young man and woman around. Along with these, the massive public frustration is only growing against price hikes, corruption and cronyism and communalism.
There is certainly another angle to the February ‘revolutionary polls’ in Delhi and this is linked to Prime Minister’s taunt at Arvind Kejriwal calling him a “Naxal”. Of course for his part, Kejriwal had called himself an anarchist last year. But a shrewd politician Modi missed the point that the AAP chief has tendered apology uncountable times in the run up to the polls.

From northeasterners settled, working or studying in Delhi, the February 7 election became all the more important after BJP had goofed up on their Vision Document by tagging northeast people as “immigrants”.
Of course, the saffron party quickly sought to clarify and apologized by describing it as an ‘error’, the damage was undoubtedly full blown.
“My friends ask me why I am still working for BJP as they have called us 'immigrants',” rued one Naga voter in South Delhi.

Incidentally, the tiny population of northeasterners in Delhi has been well focused upon by the BJP with cadres ear-marked around 20 constituencies. For BJP, party strategists say, it was not only a modest crowd of 10,000 across the city but a manner of reaching out to the northeast region as a whole – which had responded enthusiastically to Modi in states like Nagaland, Manipur and Assam. 

Now that the verdict is out with Modi handed over a shocking defeat and reports suggest northeast Delhiites overwhelmingly voting for Aam Admi Party, the take aways are crucial though highly complex.

India, Delhi and northeast people are increasingly moving towards a post-ideology era in politics. Kindly note, Delhi northeast voters understandably did not cast their dice in favour of Congress even as Congress has had a long history of association with the northeast and many northeast youngsters in Delhi would have parents and uncles still in Congress party. The political divide as such and ideological moorings are now a thing of past. 

Even while moving closer to the BJP, the northeast people including those who went on moving around with saffron caps had hardly to do with the Hindutva politics of BJP. The urge was more economical and to an extent the ‘euphemism called greed’ to be closer to the power. 
North east youths in Delhi or back home have been always a key part of aspirational India. They are more interested in being economic prosperity and career-centric. Certainly the rise of the middle class is a big factor in this and also that agricultural field is not the first choice of youngsters in the region. (ends)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

An Unstable neighbour !! Myanmar; and Persuasive diplomacy

Diplomacy can be also defined as a confrontation-preventing and solution-oriented mechanism. An unstable Myanmar is always a matter of concern vis-a-vis insurgency-hit northeastern states.
'Persuasive diplomacy' is a skill wherein a fine synthesis of soft approach and authoritative manner is utilized to influence the mindset and subsequent policies of another country. India needs to experiment this proficiently with Myanmar in order to achieve lasting results in northeast India. 

I have tried to emphasis earlier that the foreign policy with regard to India’s South Asian neighbours is often understood as a mere tool of combating insurgency. As a result the diplomatic thrust for the region and smaller countries like Myanmar always remained neglected.
In the meantime, Myanmar has seen some transitions. A resemblance of democracy has come in and in circa 2015 all eyes – as expected - would be on the general elections likely to be held by October-November.

But the people of Myanmar and more importantly the political machineries in that country – essential elements to run a democracy – have to ironically grapple with certain realities.
There is 25 per cent of the seats reserved for the military in parliament that gives them veto rights against any constitutional change. In more ways than one they say, the people of Myanmar continue to be bewildered by the “new-old” system where military has upper hand on major issues.

Now importantly for New Delhi, the Indian government needs to be on guard about certain things – technically internal matter of Myanmar - but very sensitive for Indian diplomatic establishment especially in the context of ruling BJP's keenness to have improved relations between Nagas in Nagaland and Manipur with the Nagas in Myanmar.

PM Modi with Suu Kyi
India shares a long land frontier with Myanmar that runs a little longer than 1600 km. The government of India for decades took scant note of the fact that Myanmar’s so called “isolationist policy” – under the military regime – has only befriended it more to China

Now in last few years if the political turmoil and sustained international pressure one way or the other changed the lives of common Myanmarese, it has also things for Nagas in Myanmar who have often suffered the loss of home, lives and culture.
Did they often feel unwanted in their homeland thus also deserve finer scrutiny.

A sizeable portion in western Myanmar is dominated by the ethnic Nagas, who share biological fraternity with the Nagas in India. Thus it is often argued by political parties in Indian side of the border and also security experts in the South Block that the condition of Nagas in Myanmar can have some impact vis-à-vis the insurgency movement of the Nagas this side.
Reportedly, the Nagaland government has earlier this year submitted a paper to the centre on these lines.
Former Nagaland CM Rio with Naga delegation from Myanmar

But having said these it needs to be appreciated that certain aspects of supposedly internal matters of Myanmar can easily bamboozle Indian government, which despite subjected to all kinds of criticism has been practicing functional democracy for over six decades. 

The military commanders in Myanmar continue to have the “final say” in the appointment of the Defence minister, Home minister and the minister of Border Affairs. We have spoken earlier about veto powers of Myanmar’s military rulers for any possible drastic constitutional changes. 
Moreover, the new constitutional mechanism there enshrines that military has the constitutional right to seize power if the President decides. So in 2015 on the context of general elections later in the year, we could wake up to yet another dawn of military coup. And it could actually happen very easily. “It wouldn’t be a coup like before; it would be a constitutional handover of power to the military,” renowned Myanmar watcher, Bertil Lintner told me during a recent interaction.
This would mean the Naga Self-Administered Zone in western Myanmar as stipulated by the 2008 constitutional norms would end up as a scratch.
These can combine together to make things somewhat complicated for New Delhi in dealing with the emotive and sensitive issue of relationship between Nagas in India and their fraternal counterparts in Myanmar.

The policy makers in New Delhi under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and especially his trusted National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval therefore ought to take matters concerning northeast India and neighbours like Myanmar more seriously.
It is significant to note that while delivering an address to mark the foundation day of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju has said that, “There is no need to adopt hawkish foreign policy. We are naturally a soft power. But soft does not mean weak. We have to be firm, responsible and strong in our resolve”
Rijiju is a key leader from Arunachal Pradesh and reportedly shares good working rapport with the NSA Doval. Thus the Junior Home Minister’s remarks are well taken. In deed the statement spells good intent and sincere understanding of matters. But at the same time one needs to underline that New Delhi’s foreign policy engine room, that is the PMO and the NSA in particular, needs to be pro-active vis-à-vis hitherto neglected neighbours like Myanmar.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s eloquent hesitation for participating in the general elections in October is actually a matter of concern. One is stating this notwithstanding the fact that the performance of Suu Kyi’s National Leage for Democracy in Parliament has remained far from satisfactory.

The army-dictated 2008 Constitution is not only clearly offering an win-win situation to military, it also bars Suu Kyi from becoming president or vice president.
The constitution requires the approval of 75 per cent of parliament to amend major portions of the charter and so army-inspired hurdle for any drastic measure is only predictable. Can India make some difference in all these? This is a test of its persuasive diplomacy.